Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Newspapers and Freedom of Speech and Press

As Americans we are proud and thankful for a country whose Founding Fathers established a Constitution and a Bill of Rights that protects the freedom of its people.  While many people see the Bill of Rights as a list of absolute rights what many people do not know is that there are limitations to each of these rights.

Freedom of the press is one of the components of the First. However, that does not mean that just anything can be published in public newspapers.  In 1988, there was a Supreme Court case over this specific issue. Cathy Kuhlmeier, a student at Hazelwood East High School and two other students had written two articles to be published in their school newspaper about teenage pregnancy and divorce.  When submitted to the school principle for review, the principle eliminated these stories because he was concerned about protecting the identity of the pregnant students and he felt that in the divorce story (in which the student’s real name was used) “the father was not given an opportunity to respond to his daughter’s criticism.” Kuhlmeier brought Hazelwood to court “claiming that the school went against the First Amendment’s freedom of speech and press and that their principal did not have the right to censor their articles”.

This court case spurred much debate over what is and is not protected under our First Amendment right to freedom of the press. The court stated that the “First Amendment rights of students in the public schools are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings, and must be applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment. A school need not tolerate student speech that is inconsistent with its basic educational mission, even though the government could not censor similar speech outside the school”.

While the court decided in favor of Hazelwood the controversy over freedom of speech and press is an on going debate. The constraints placed on the newspaper industry (though not as strict as school newspapers) are still limiting. To some people the government’s censorship of the press may seem in violation of our first amendment rights, but by placing limits on what sensitive subject material can and cannot be printed we are protecting all audiences.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Newspaper and the Integration of Twitter

          From the beginning of Journalism, The industry of Newspaper is rapidly changing with today’s social media. We as providers and consumers of the news have to keep up. Journalism is now changing ways of reporting through technology like Twitter. In my case study presentation on Thursday, I will discuss how the integration and changes through newspapers have occurred because of social media, by cutting costs, sharing resources, and the overall role that Twitter has played.
          First I will begin with the introduction of how journalism has evolved from Yellow Journalism and New Journalism. In one of my examples, it will display how the first forerunner newspaper uses Twitter to relate breaking news to citizens during a heavy storm. Also, I will discuss “The meeting of two media is a moment of truth and revelation from which new form is born.”  That new form is known as Twitter. More reporters are now using Twitter to alert followers to breaking news or to news stories online. By this new means of social media, Reporters can extend their information faster and more easily accessible to consumers of the news to multiple outlets. With this topic, it brings up the issue of what if a reporter tweets a news tip that is incorrect information. In my case study, I will display an instance in the newsroom where a journalist does just that and the consequences that it takes on them and readers through the Internet. As the question of the week “What are the constraints on free speech & the First Amendment for the news industry?”, this makes one consider how our news industry has evolved because of social media similar to Twitter. There are no longer constraints on free speech when you use an outlet like Twitter. The overall effect that Twitter has on the journalism industry depends on whom you ask. The ways in which we report news is changing, for better or for worse.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Federal Regulation and Policy Making- SOPA, the Communication Decency Act, and the First Amendment

In my presentation, I will explore the question of the week, who controls/monitors the media, by examining two of the primary laws that do so- the First Amendment and the Telecommunictions Act of 1996. To provide a concrete example of how the policy-making system works, I will also discuss two controversial policies- the recently proposed SOPA bill, and a past and failed attempt of Internet regulation- the Communications Decency Act in relation to the case Reno v. ACLU.
Recently, a bill was being discussed in Congress that would have changed the nature of the Internet. The Stop Online Piracy Act  (H.R. 3261), known as “SOPA,” was aimed at taking down sites that allow Internet users to acquire pirated versions of original artistic content online. There was huge opposition to the bill, with the main concern being that the enactment of SOPA would result in ISPs and search engines being over-inclusive when taking down sites in order to avoid penalties. This would result in expelling large amounts of lawful content from the Internet. The hearing over SOPA was postponed due to concerns voiced throughout the country. While it is positive that Congress is taking time to address the concerns, we have not seen the end of this bill that is so detrimental to our open Internet.
            After Congress writes communication policy, the judiciary branch interprets challenges made to laws that question their constitutionality. A prime example is the monumental case, Reno v. ACLU.
            Reno v. ACLU addressed the question of whether or not electronic speech on the Internet could be regulated. The road to what became Reno v. ACLU began with Congress’ creation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which deregulated industries in order to increase competition. The constitutionality of two provisions in Title V, the Communication Decency Act (CDA), was brought to question by the American Civil Liberties Union. These provisions, intended to protect minors from inappropriate Internet material, criminalized the “knowing transmission of obscene or indecent messages” as well as the transmission of information which depicts or describes “sexual or excretory activities or organs” in a way that is “offensive as measured by contemporary community standards” (Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844).
            The Telecommunications Act ended up being passed without the CDA, and remains the primary law governing media in the United States. The CDA was ruled unconstitutional due to its content-based, subjective restrictions, and because it would silence some speakers whose messages would be entitled to constitutional protection. If SOPA were eventually enacted, it too could take away information that adults have a constitutional right to send and receive. Both protecting minors from offensive material and stopping online piracy would be ideal. However, the most fundamental law controlling the media requires the government to find a solution that won’t diminish the free expression of ideas.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

FCC 1934, 1996, 2012?

The Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency that is set up to monitor the media. They set rules on what can be said and shown on radio and television. The FCC is also responsible for the growth and development of future technologies. On Thursday I will be discussing the strategic plan and the FCC has developed to promote future innovation in technologies in the 21st century. The strategic plan consists of six steps: spectrum, media, public safety and homeland security, modernization, broadband and competition. All six together work to promote economic growth, compition amoungst companies, reliability, and innovation. This is good that the FCC is trying to promote compition in the industry but with the being revised as an organization so few times are teh strategies that are in place going to work for teh future?

Deceptive Advertising

Without being monitored by the Federal Trade Commission, consumers could easily fall victim to countless cases of deceptive advertising in commercial speech. My presentation Thursday will focus on the policies of the Federal Trade Commission as it endeavors to protect "reasonable consumers" from the deception in the media. This regulatory agency monitors trade policy and, as you will see in my example with Reebok shoes, the FTC does not let anyone slip by these policies, not even highly reputable companies. I also look at a case of fraudulent internet marketing and the problem with "Risk Free Trials". Although the internet is much more vast and harder to control, the FTC does not let it fall by the wayside. In both cases we see the FTC's enforcements of cease and desist orders- prohibiting further communication of the deception, and hefty fines. Through this I focus on the various ways the FTC enforces their policies. Monitoring this results in more lawful, truthful, and substantial advertisements that accomplish what they advertise. The two cases that I will look at failed to do so, and their repercussions at the hand of the FTC were impactful. It is not a challenge to reflect on the question of the week which asks, "Who controls and monitors the media?", when clearly in the case of deceptive advertising, the Federal Trade Commission does its best to manage deception, with the consumers' best interest at heart.